On Writing: Novel Structure

[For examples, I will use a story that I never finished and likely never will. It's called "Until They Unite", which I have talked about in my "Life in Writing" post.]

Three Act Structure

Act 1:
  • Beginning: The main character carries out life as normal. [In "Until They Unite", Marco is inducted into a prestigious group called the Shadow Faction.]

  • Plot Point 1: Something happens that changes everything. This forces them to do something they'd rather not. [Marco is suddenly expected to embark on a mission of great urgency, and he's been with the Faction for barely a week.]

Act 2:
  • Middle: The character's emotional and physical journey. The character should endure and overcome many challenges throughout this act. [Marco has to face and tame a dragon, and he and rest of the faction have to fight and tame many a beast in all areas of the continent of Xakei. He has to accept the deaths of two of the group.]
The key to act 2 is conflict. This can be physical, but is more often emotional or something of discovery. There should be a good number of these "crises" leading up to the second plot point.

  • Plot Point 2: This comes at the end of Act 2, and turns the story in a new direction again. The hero seems beaten but something happens to turn things his way. [Marco and the faction are in the Temple of Air, where they can find the final Elemental Piece. But the gigantic raven is powerful, and when they pluck the Circlet of Air from its pedestal, the Temple begins to fall in ruins, and they are still inside. They manage to escape by the skin of their teeth, a protective forcefield from the Circlet having protected them.]

Act 3:
  • Lead-up to the end: The third act shows how the character succeeds or becomes a better person.
  • Resolution: Ties together the loose ends and shows the result of actions taken throughout the story.
  • Denouement: A comedown after the intense final points of the story. Show how the characters have changed or developed after their experience.

A note on tension:

From the beginning of the story, the tension should become progressively higher until the climax of the story. Readers need a break, though, so after each crisis, allow some drop in tension before raising it again. Otherwise the reader could get fizzled out from the constant action.

These sections after a crisis are also a fantastic point to develop the characters and reveal tidbits about the backstory or describe the landscape to give the reader some sense of the world.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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